In learning about Paul’s prayer, there is a similarity to eating a good meal. No matter what it is that we’re eating – a vegetable, fruit or meat – we are eating something which earlier was doing the eating. That beef only a few weeks before was eating its own grass or grain. And that tomato was sucking up moisture and nourishment from the soil that it was growing in. They ate, and now we are eating them. There is Paul praying for the Romans, and in reading about that we learn to pray better. We should be strengthened in prayer by feasting on the prayer of Paul.
As I was meditating on this passage I came up with six points, which I will try to condense somewhat. That is because some of this, of necessity, is review. So we won’t be examining every word and every clause of this prayer. I’ll try to stick to some of the highlights. In this case let’s think about: thanksgiving and faith; we’ll look at constancy and providence and establishment and comfort. These are some things that ought to be ingredients found in our prayers as well as Paul’s.
Notice again Paul’s THANKSGIVING and FAITH.
When you pray, remember that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.” Good things are gifts of God, and so are the good people whom the Lord brings into our lives and into our circle of knowledge. If you are thinking about asking God for some more good things, then it’s more than just appropriate to thank Him for the good things that you’ve received since you last spoke to Him. Paul says, “First, before I do or ask anything more, I thank my God for you all. I know that we’ve never met personally, except for a few individuals there in Rome, but the very thought of you fills my heart with thanksgiving.” We need to learn to be more cognizant and respectful of the people that God has already given us. And particularly, if there are great things in those people for which to praise the Lord, then do it. “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” We need to practice a lot more specific thanksgiving.
Once again, we are reminded here that there is only one way in which we can call Jehovah “my God.” Certainly we don’t own or possess Him. Jehovah is “our God” when we are possessed by Him. And we have access to our God, because “Jesus is the way, the truth and life. No man cometh unto the Father but by Him.” It is in the Lord Jesus’ name and authority that we come unto the Father. It is through Jesus’ blood we have been cleansed of our filthy sins. And it is in wearing the robe of Christ Jesus’ righteousness that we are sufficiently dressed to come into the throne room of God.
“I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is universally famous.” Was Paul just being nice, or was their faith actually that well known? Because of the nature of the Roman Empire, and the excitement that there was around Christianity, it was very like that the faith of these people in Rome really was spoken of throughout the world. But it probably means little more than that these people were known to be Christians. It is not referring to their ability to move mountains with their mustard seed faith. It is highly unlikely that these people were world-famous for miracle-working faith.
Nevertheless, this is a great compliment. And it would be fantastic if our faith was as well known as theirs. This is a part of our business as the Lord’s ambassadors. Undoubtedly this is something about which we should pray.
Verse 9 reminds us that prayer should be INCESSANT:
“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.”
Paul prayed for these people ceaselessly. Of course, this couldn’t refer to a 24 hour repetition of their names; nor could it be all his waking hours. If he was praying without a pause, then when was he preaching? Does this mean that Paul is not telling the truth? If he is, then he’s not telling the truth in Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and I Thessalonians. Ephesians 1:15-16 – Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.” Philippians1:3-4 – I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy.” Colossians 1:3-4 – We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints.” I Thessalonians 1:2-3 – We give “thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father.”
There is no way to know exactly how many minutes Paul thought about each of these churches and how much time he spent beseeching the Lord on their behalf. But the words “without ceasing” in this case must mean that he prayed for these churches day-in and day-out, not just on Wednesday nights and once a month on Saturday morning. He was, at least sometime every day, praying for these people. And perhaps that is an indication of how serious this man was about prayer. Maybe it indicates that he believed that prayer really does accomplish something in this world. I wish I knew that each of you besought the Lord on behalf of our church each and every day. How much better would all our lives be if we all prayed for each other every day?
Verse 10 reminds us how dependent we are upon the will of the Lord for each of our endeavors.
“Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.”
Paul was praying for prosperous providence. He had long wanted to visit the city of Rome – to preach the gospel where Christ was not named. But by this time the name of the Lord had been heard in the streets and palaces of Rome. Yet still Paul wished to visit there. But he knew that he would never see that place apart from the will of God, so he prayed about it.
Usually when I think of providence, I mistakenly picture the will of the Lord in nature or in miracles. But by definition, providence is simply the advanced care, or preparation, of something. It’s the use of foresight; something at which the Lord is really quite good. It’s the same thing as the prudent management of something. When it comes to divine providence the actions of men are controlled by the Lord just as much as He controls nature or angels. Isn’t the “king’s heart in the hand of the Lord”? Didn’t the Lord open the heart of Dairus and put Nebuchadnezzar onto the Judeans? Paul was praying for the Lord’s control of his life, and in particular, his visit in Rome.
“I want to come to see you, but unless the Lord creates the itinerary and buys the ticket for me, I will never be able to make it.” How little do most of us think along those terms. We just make our plans and buy our tickets. If we actually get on the plane, it is obvious that the Lord has permitted it. But if we think about the Lord’s permission at all, it is usually after the fact, rather than before it. Brethren, this ought not so to be.
Eventually Paul made that trip to Rome, but it wasn’t in the first class section of a 747. In this case the providence of God meant that Paul would travel in chains. It even meant ship wreck, near death, and a few days drying out on the Island of Melita.
Oh, how we need to beseech the Lord, not only for providence, but for prosperous providence. Not just for the big things in our lives, but for everything in our lives. And we need to learn to let the Lord define that prosperity.
Then Paul prayed for the Roman’s ETERNAL ESTABLISHMENT.
“For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”
Let’s say that we all live to be 70 years old. And let’s say we all became children of God in our 20th year, after which we began to serve God. Let’s say that during the last 50 years of our lives we do one significant or outstanding thing each and every day. That means that we will have a list of 18,250 items brought up before us at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Some of us will have many, many more things, but a lot of us will have far fewer than 18,000. All of the things on that list will be put to the Lord’s assay fire and tested for eternal value. And out of that list, there may be only 10% that survive the Lord’s trial. But then for you it might be 60%.
It should be a part of our prayer life to seek the Lord’s blessing on our service for Him. Only by His grace will there be anything done for eternity. And if it’s not for eternity then what is the point of doing it in the first place? Paul prayed that he might be of help in giving to those people in Rome something that will come out of the Lord’s assay all shining and bright. “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”
Does the thought of standing before the Lord with all your life spread out before Him, bother you? There is a sense in which it makes me just a little nervous. But if there is any way to get past that, it is to have the same perspective as that of Paul. He was concerned just as much about helping other believers prepare for that judgment as he was about preparing himself. If we spend our lives serving God and others, we won’t have much to worry about at the Judgment Seat. Do have any kind of ministry like that? Do you pray about others in relation to that day of judgment?
Paul concludes his prayer in reference to mutual COMFORT, verse 12.
“For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”
Isn’t it a good thing to pillow your head at night knowing that you’ve had a good day? You’ve actually done some things that are good, worthwhile and even permanent. You’ve not brought shame to yourself or to your Lord. To your knowledge, you’ve not transgressed any of the law of God. There have been some temptations to which you have given-in before, but on this day you didn’t. And you have in some way been a blessing to someone; particularly an eternal blessing. It’s been a good day.
What if you could extend that to a whole lifetime? What if you could pillow your soul and say that you’ve lived a good life. Sure you have committed some sin, but your heart is dying in a cleansed and pure condition. And throughout your life you have beaten the 10% barrier in the eternal service department.
There is a sense in which at this very moment you are dying. Are you dying, rejoicing in the Lord’s goodness throughout your life? What comfort there is in the knowledge that by the grace and power of God your life has been a positive one for the Lord.
This is another matter about which to pray.